When It Rains It Pours

It was a lie and we both knew it. I may have wanted to jump into a raging fire for Alex but I had a daughter to take care of, who needed me then more than ever before, and she was not going to grow up without a father because I did something bull-headed. I think Alex understood that as well but we wanted to believe that lie so badly that it didn’t matter. Boarding that plane would have been a mistake but he needed a reason not to do it, something to soothe his injured pride and gnawing worries, that should the worst come to pass there would be retribution, and my empty promise was enough.
 
All that was left to do was fight the battles at hand and pray that his family would remain safe just a little longer.
 
Changing his ticket to a later date was the usual bureaucratic ordeal, involving demeaning bargaining, groveling, and obsequiousness. But less than an hour after I had convinced him it was the right thing to do, we were standing outside in the taxi line-up in uneasy silence with a new ticket in his back pocket. Every time the sound of jumbo jet engines roaring down the runway reached our ears he glanced to the sky without expression or comment and guilt chewed its way a little deeper into my soul.
 
“Nothing will be the same again now,” he said at last. “You know this, right?”
 
“What do you mean?” I was so busy trying to avoid thinking about what he was referring to that I completely missed it at first.
 
“Simone became a woman only a few months before I left home,” he said without looking at me, his voice difficult to hear over the air and ground traffic. “I was so scared for her that I almost stayed… but you do not have the same worries here that we have. If Cara becomes pregnant it will most likely be of her choosing – Simone will be very lucky if that is true for her.”
 
With great difficulty I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat and subdued the urge to shove my way to the head of the queue. With the resolution of the dilemma at the airport, the situation at home came rushing in full force and my knees buckled slightly before I could regain control. Images flashed through my mind, continuously, and I was powerless to stop them: my baby girl big with child; a delivery room filled with so much blood I’m wading through it, reaching for Cara, her face twisted with agony; meeting in the principal’s office to inform them Cara will have to drop out; unpaid bills piled high on the kitchen island, teetering, falling…
 
“Nate!” I opened my eyes to find myself on one knee, my hands placed on the cold concrete on either side of my right foot, and Alex crouched down before me. I was aware of a crowd gathering around me but ignored their offers of assistance as my vision swam sickeningly. “Breathe friend, just breathe. Nothing exists but the air moving slowly, slowly in and out of your body. In, two, three, four… out, two, three, four. Again. One more time.”
 
“Should we call an ambulance or something?” I looked up to see a bald man in denial clutching his briefcase in one hand and holding his comb over in place with his other. I clenched my jaw and rose up slowly, brushing off Alex’s helping hand.
 
“I’m fine,” I snapped and expressions quickly changed from worried to offended or uncaring. After a brief internal struggle I managed, “Thank you… for your concern.”
 
“But maybe we could move to the front of the line?” Alex asked far more politely than I ever could have. “If that is okay?”

The crowd parted reluctantly for us and we reached the street just as an empty cab arrived to meet us. Alex threw his bag in the trunk and we slipped into the backseat. I nodded him my thanks and he shrugged it off with a smile before raising an eyebrow and motioning to the driver.
 
“Davie and Denman please – as fast as you can get us there without getting arrested.” We lurched away from the curb and my head went for another swim.
 
“Focus on the breath Nate,” Alex told me softly. “And relax – everything will be fine. I can tell you are worried about things that you would never do yourself and Cara is much smarter than you.”
 
“Hmmph,” I said and laughed ruefully while rubbing my temples. “I’m getting worked up over nothing anyway – she’s not allowed to have a boyfriend until she’s twenty-five. Hey, what was that breathing business about? Some kind of Haitian coping technique?”

“Yoga, actually.”

“That by choice or do you have yourself a girlfriend already?” A slight smile, a look out the window. “Jesus, I’m getting it from all sides all at once.”
 
*     *     *
 
I entered our apartment forty minutes later with my heart firmly entrenched in my throat and a pharmacy bag filled to bursting with unmentionables in my left hand. I closed the door gently, removed my shoes, and padded to Cara’s bedroom. The door was open and she wasn’t inside.
 
“Cara?” I would never have guessed so much fear could be conveyed in just one word.

“I’m in here,” came the muffled reply. It took me a few moments to realize she was in the bathroom and a few more to understand why. I was so completely unprepared for this.
 
“I got you everything you asked for,” I said through the door, feeling completely useless. “Do you want… should I come in?”
 
“No!” I felt her reply like a slap across the face and my head began to reel once more. “Just… leave it outside the door, okay?”
 
“Sure thing kid… Cara. Sure thing. Let me know if you need… anything.” I gently deposited the bag and began to walk away.
 
“There’s a message on the phone for you,” she called after me, bringing me to a halt. “It’s from Dawn – she wants to meet an hour later than you guys had planned. For your date. Tonight.”
 
Oh hell, that’s tonight?

The End

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